The Holiday season in Iceland is truly something spectacular. Between the age-old folklore of the Yule Lads, and a feast of traditional dishes and treats, it’s no surprise that each brand New Year is welcomed with fantastic festivities of light and sound.
First, a Bonfire… or 10…
Across Iceland bonfire gatherings are held with friends, families, and neighbors. And there are larger public parties as well. In Reykjavik alone there are at least 10 bonfires (Brenna) starting at around 8:30 P.M.
This warming social tradition can be traced back to the Middle Ages when fishermen cleaned house for the start of the new year, by burning old and unwanted things like furniture.
Of course, bonfires are only the beginning of New Year’s Eve in Iceland.
A Year In Review & Some Laughs
Depending on your plans, you may stay out and roam the bonfires, bars, and restaurants until midnight, or you may stay in the hotel room or at a friend’s house. Wherever you are in Iceland in the late evening hours on New Year’s Eve, you’re very likely to see Áramótaskaupið or Spaugstofan being shown on a nearby television.
Áramótaskaupið is a comedy/satire program that looks back on big events in Iceland over the past year. And Spaugstofan is also a comedy show. Both are widely popular and beloved.
New Year’s in Iceland means Fireworks!
Fireworks are a major part of Iceland’s New Year’s celebrations. Did you know Iceland is the only European country where fireworks are sold legally to the public?
Every year ICE-SAR (the Icelandic Association for Search And Rescue) sells close to 500 tons of fireworks. Since ICE-SAR is a volunteer organization, fireworks purchases raise lots of money to help support their efforts, while also providing lots of excitement and fun times!
Locals and tourists alike are encouraged to join in the spectacular displays – safely of course. But if lighting fireworks yourself isn’t quite the New Year’s party you had in mind, you can always watch them downtown.
Popular spots for fireworks include Hallgrímskirkja church, the Pearl at Öskjuhlíð hill, Klambratún park, and Landakotstún park.
Don’t Forget The Toast!
Many bars in Iceland normally close early, but of course on New Year’s many remain open for extended hours. Still, the best bet for New Year’s drinks and partying is to enjoy friends’ company at a house party. This way you can avoid long lines and expensive cover charges.
Of course you’ll want to bring a bottle or two of Brennivin and Reyka!